John Adams said he learned that the Metropolitan Opera was scrapping plans to transmit his opera “The Death of Klinghoffer” to movie theaters around the world when the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, told him on Sunday by telephone that he had gotten “unimaginable pressure” from some Jewish groups that oppose the work.

“I asked Peter if, before summarily canceling this, he would open it up to some kind of a public dialogue,” Mr. Adams recalled on Tuesday, in his first interview since the Met announced that it was dropping the opera, scheduled to appear this fall on its popular “Live in HD” cinema program. “He said that he felt that by canceling the telecast, he could save the stage production,” Mr. Adams said.

The opera — which tells of the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists, and the murder of a Jewish passenger, Leon Klinghoffer — has met with controversy since it was first performed in 1991.

A campaign by Jewish groups that wanted the Met to cancel the production heated up recently. Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, discussed the matter with Mr. Gelb, who agreed to cancel the movie transmission, but not the performances.

“We compromised,” said Mr. Foxman, who said he had not seen the opera, but did not believe it was anti-Semitic. He said he feared how it might be received in a time of rising anti-Semitism abroad. “I think he wished that he didn’t have to go there, and I wished that they weren’t performing it.”

Mr. Gelb, a champion of Mr. Adams’s who was the first to bring his operas to the Met stage, has faced sharp criticism for canceling the “Klinghoffer” transmission from some music critics and arts administrators. (Nicholas Kenyon, the managing director of the Barbican Center in London, posted on Twitter that the Met’s decision was “shocking shortsighted and indefensible.”)

Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of the PEN American Center, which promotes free expression, called the decision troubling. “We are deeply troubled by the decision of an arts organization to withhold a performance not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because someone, somewhere might misconstrue it,” she said in an email.

Mr. Gelb said that the Met remains committed to the work.

“The Met is resolute on going forward with it, and the fact that we offered this compromise outside the United States doesn’t mean that we’re prepared to compromise on artistic integrity inside the opera house,” Mr. Gelb said in an interview on Tuesday. “This is a great work of art that should be seen and heard at the Met, where it belongs.”

Mr. Adams, one of America’s foremost composers, said that he did not understand why the cinema transmission and radio broadcast were still being canceled if Mr. Gelb and the Anti-Defamation League agreed that the work is not anti-Semitic, though some critics have said otherwise. And he said he had been concerned by what he called “the really completely unjust charges” about his opera, especially by people who have not heard it.

“The really ironic and sad fact is that the content of this opera is more relevant in 2014 than it was even in 1991, when it was premiered,” Mr. Adams said. “I think the people that are inflamed and upset about its production are people who are intent about trying to control their message. By canceling it, the Met has yielded to that intimidation.”

Mr. Adams, who praised Mr. Gelb’s support of his work and his “grit and determination” to stage “Klinghoffer,” said that he feared that without the global transmission, which is often followed by television broadcasts, many thousands of people would be deprived of the chance to see the work and make up their own minds about it.

“I’m just afraid that most people will have a sort of Wikipedia opinion about this opera,” he said. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s the opera that’s been accused of anti-Semitism,’ and leave it at that. And that’s really very sad — it’s very hard when something’s been stained with an accusation like that, it’s almost impossible to wash it out.”

The work, which has a libretto by Alice Goodman, skirts the line between opera and oratorio, and is famous for its choruses of exiled Palestinians and exiled Jews. By going beyond the killing — Mr. Klinghoffer was shot to death in his wheelchair and thrown overboard — and delving into the motivations and backgrounds of its characters, including the terrorists, it drew complaints from some critics who saw it as trying to establish the equivalence of the two groups’ grievances. But it has always had champions as well: John Rockwell wrote in The New York Times in 2003 that “in the end ‘Klinghoffer’ is not anti-American or antibourgeois or anti-Semitic but prohuman.”

Mr. Adams said that he sees the murder of Leon Klinghoffer as “a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions,” and that he was dismayed by the recent Internet campaign denouncing his work as pro-terrorist and even suggesting that it was funded by “Saudi money.”

“When Klinghoffer finally sings, he sings an aria of absolute indignation,” Mr. Adams noted. “He’s being taunted and abused by this bully that the passengers called ‘Rambo,’ and he fights back. I can’t imagine anybody not identifying with his words. He says: ‘Was it your pal who shot that little girl at the airport in Rome? You would have done the same.’ Or, ‘You pour gasoline over women passengers on the bus to Tel Aviv.’ How could that be construed as making fun of the Klinghoffers?”

He said he wished the Met had imitated the Opera Theater of St. Louis, which, before it presented the opera in 2011, held interfaith discussions on the work and its themes to educate the community. Mr. Gelb said that he was not sure that such an approach could work in a city the size of New York, but that he continues to speak with Jewish leaders, and might set up some discussions.

Mr. Foxman noted that the Met would include a note in its program from two of Mr. Klinghoffer’s daughters, Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, who object to the piece. Asked if he thought the opera would be picketed when it opens on Oct. 20, he said, “I hope not.”